Marie Civitarese (right) and Graham Vink (left) open Vernon Proms classical music fest with their Colours of Song recital July 11. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Vernon Proms opener an operatic powerhouse

Marie Civitarese looks and sounds as though she is straight out of the golden age of classical music

Dressed elegantly in a golden dress with a matching gold bracelet and earrings, Marie Civitarese stands in front of a crowd of about 50 underneath the elaborate and decorative ceiling of All Saints Anglican Church.

With her sophisticated and chic attire, Civitarese looks as though she is straight out of the golden age of classical music, with her bright red lipstick and lively curls simultaneously embracing the illusion and adding a modern flare.

And her vocal presence matches, or more accurately surpasses, the created illusion.

Civitarese’s powerful soprano resonates through the beautiful church setting without amplification and is easily heard from the back of the crowd. Her striking operatic performance rests upon the precise and level piano laid down by Kelowna’s Graham Vink at their July 11 Colours of Song recital as part of Vernon Proms classical music festival. And together, the two are a force to be reckoned with.

With no shortage of finesse and elegance, Civitarese attacks the closing high note to Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate, composed in 1773 for an Italian castrato who was singing in Mozart’s opera, Lucia Silla, commonly sung in modern times by a female soprano.

Civitarese bows after a round of applause from the audience and takes a seat stage left, leaving the floor open for Vink to perform Johannes Brahms’ Intermezzo in A major, Op 118 No. 2. Vink is studied in his performance, tapping each piano key with equal parts emotion and precision.

Vink bows, and Civitarese joins him on stage to perform three more selections of Brahms’ work.

Together, the duo is comfortable with everything the legendary German composer could throw at them, from the gentle melodies of Wie Melodien to the upbeat pulse of Ständchen.

As Vink and Civitarese close off their brief tour through Brahms’ work, the audience is silently awaiting Meine Liebe ist grün. A few seconds later, Civitarese laughs and reminds the crowd that the track was stricken from the program. She later admits it was removed from the set list because she had only given the song to Vink the day prior. The crowd laughs and Vink and Civitarese exit stage left for a brief intermission.

The crowd rises from their seats, quietly chatting and exploring the venue. The substantial church hall is host to beautifully resonating acoustics that carry the classical music through the rows upon rows of wooden pews. The light is dim but inviting.

Civitarese and Vink take the stage and the crowd returns to their seats.

The beauty of Claude Debussy’s ariettes oubliées performed by Vink and Civitarese is unrivalled, from the natural radiance of C’est l’extase to the Edgar Allan Poe-esque haunting pathos of L’ombre des arbres.

Civitarese is concurrently a soft and gentle presence and a sonic powerhouse who is as comfortable speaking in English as she as singing in Italian, German, French, and Spanish.

Manuel de Falla’s Asturiana stood out in solemn, poetic grace when performed by the two musicians on their globe-trotting classical performance.

The duo attacks de Falla’s Polo with unimaginable and sensational power to close off the planned program. However, in lieu of Meine Liebe ist grün, Civitarese and Vink have one final offering: crowd favourite Vedrai Carino of Mozart’s two-act opera Don Giovanni.

As Vink and Civitarese take their final bow, the crowd returns the favour with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Taste of Vienna with violinist Cvetozar Vutev and pianist Dimiter Terziev perform for Vernon Proms classical music festival July 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets for the recitals are available for $22 regular and $18 senior from the Ticket Seller, www.ticketseller.ca, 250-549-7469. Free entrance for kids under age 12. Instrumental Early Music concert is July 26, with free admission. Vocal Early Music concert, the final concert of the festival, is July 28, with free admission. Vocal, violin, and woodwinds workshops are available, with information, schedules, and artist bios available at www.vernonproms.ca.

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